Humberside Geologist no.12

Tom Sheppard, Geologist


Another letter from Mary Sheppard.
(sister of the famous Hull Museums Curator Tom Sheppard)
In our Centenary Year I read an article about Mary Sheppard in a local newspaper, so I sent her a letter and a copy of Humberside Geologist No. 5, as I though she would be interested in the articles about Thomas Sheppard, her brother. She sent me a lovely letter which I came across again in our archives recently. I wish I could write as coherently and legibly as she did, now! Mary Sheppard lived to be 100.
Mike Horne 

Devizes, July 19 1988

Dear Mr Horne,

The package you sent me gave me pleasure and interest more than you can imagine. The [Centenary Dinner] menu reminded me of days 90 years ago, I can see him chipping ammonites from a block of Whitby rock - a group of 4 of the youngest members of the family, and explaining that a belemnite was the backbone of a cuttle fish, and also telling us that there were numerous gate-posts made of the jaws of whales in the E. Yorks district.

 His great regret was his lack of education and his anxiety to keep pace with his ambition. Leaving School at 15, he went as a railway clerk and was always grateful for the benefits he received in return for devoted work - he had a free ticket for all the E. Yorks district, to enable him to carry on with his interests in his free time. The first result was 'Geological Rambles in E. Yorks'. I was then 8 years old, and spent hours in reading his proofs while he corrected them, and that duty which was my pride until he produced 'The Lost Towns of the Yorkshire Coast'. As I grew older, I used to be so sorry for his lack of the educational privileges of us older members of our family of 10. He was sensitive about his lack of English grammar, so when about to deliver a speech, he used to say "Mary, what is a split infinitive ?" or "what is a double negative ?". And I am proud to remember that I never detected a false bit of grammar in his speech.

His three most proud features of his middle life were his position of President of the Hull Geological Society from 1888 to 1938; his successful labour in getting the British Association to Hull for their annual meeting, and seeing the satisfactory result of his devoted work in the Old Town. He had little recreation other than work connected with various societies, but he was keenly interested in Hull's Little Theatre and the works of Shakespeare, much of which he could quote if appropriate. Thank you very much for sending the Geologist and reminding me of our happy past. The destruction of the Museum and the Old Street behind Wilberforce House was the end of his career, both physically and mentally, so I was glad that he did not live longer to brood on the past. I apologise for my poor writing and the length of this letter. I am 98 and still interested in Old Hull and its old celebrities, but am now nearly helpless and waiting to depart. My memories are very precious and my gratitude sincere. I wish you all the best possible for the publication and you personally.

Yours sincerely, Mary Sheppard.

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